Workers to be balloted on strikes this week

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Inflation figures published last week revealed that the cost of living in Jersey increased by 4.3 per cent over the past year, which was nearly double the comparable rate in the UK.

The figures have fuelled further discontent as States pay offers for 2018 and 2019 lag behind the rate at which the cost of living is increasing in Jersey.

Aggrieved groups include teachers, who have been offered a total permanent rise of four per cent over the two years, while civil servants are set to receive two per cent over the period.

Brendan Carolan, president of the National Education Union Jersey, said that the inflation figures vindicated his union’s previous demands for an 8.2 per cent rise over the two years.

‘Our original claim to ask for a pay settlement of 8.2 per cent for 2018 and 2019 was pretty accurate (4.1 per cent for each year),’ he said.

‘We can now clearly see that we need to receive 7.54 per cent fully consolidated [ongoing wage rises] in January 2019 just to see no drop in our real income [taking into account inflation] over the last two years.’

He added: ‘At a time when States finances are in surplus and healthy enough to remove £50m from the balance sheet for contingencies, there is money available.’

Terry Renouf, president of JCSA Prospect, which represents civil servants, said that the unions were not prepared to accept a pay offer that was below the cost of living.

‘I have never known staff to be as upset as they are now. The pay offer is unacceptable. It is below inflation like the pay awards that we have received for a number of years now,’ he said.

‘The employer says that lower-income staff will benefit but if you look at it closely that is not the case. We are open to further negotiations when the employer comes back with an improved pay offer.’

He added that JCSA Prospect’s members were due to be balloted on whether they would take industrial action ‘up to and including going on strike’ in response to the pay offer on Friday, following a pan-union public meeting on Thursday evening.

Assistant Chief Minister Richard Buchanan, who sits on the States Employment Board, insisted that there was ‘no more money in the pot’ for public-sector pay rises.

‘We are continuing to engage with the unions. We think that the offer is as fair as it can be and we have given rises to those who are lower paid. Those with less experience have been underpaid for some time,’ he said.

‘Hopefully, then we can be more even-handed with pay awards in the future once this is settled. The unions are saying that there is money elsewhere but I’m afraid there is no more money in the pot for now.

‘We are trying to address the concerns of the unions laid out in the letter they have written to us and will discuss whether their concerns have any validity at a meeting of the States Employment Board [due to take place today].’

Mr Buchanan added that he felt the current level of inflation was a ‘blip’ and warned that an inflationary cycle could be caused if pay rises were too high, as more money in circulation would cause further price rises.

‘The inflation figures [for September] are slightly better than they were for June. We thought that the last set were something of a blip with oil and housing costs going up,’ he said.

‘Part of out remit is looking at the underlying causes of inflation. Housing costs are a problem in the Island and that is something, as a government, that we are going to address.

‘There are plenty of things that you can do to address housing costs and what we would rather do is tackle the causes of inflation. If you raise wages too much it causes inflation and you can get into a vicious cycle.’

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